parkrun (spelled with a small p) is the world’s largest organized running activity, in which more than 1 million people participated last month alone. The weekly, free 5K run/jog/walk comes to Heritage Harbor, in Ottawa on June 10th. In the U.S., parkrun is spreading to the midwest, with arriving in Ottawa after opening earlier this year in the communities of Mansfield, Ohio and Eagan, Minnesota.
parkrun is uniquely inclusive – a free, weekly, volunteer-led event welcoming walkers, joggers, dogs on leashes, families with strollers and people with special needs. In Ottawa at Heritage Harbor it is being created by local resident volunteers led Pierre Alexander and Tammy Barry.
Every Saturday in 15 countries around the world (and nine locations in the U.S.), 200,000 people or more gather in their local parks, typically at 9 am, rain or shine, for a 5 kilometer parkrun. Participants receive an email with their time results an hour or two afterwards.
The first parkrun was started in a London park by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, CBE, an IT expert and amateur runner, who has received an Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship and was granted a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth honoring his parkrun achievements. For Sinton-Hewitt, parkrun is as much about building communities as running.
As of 2017, 3.5 million people have signed up for parkrun, with more than 10,000 new participants weekly. In the US, parkruns began in 2012 in Livonia, Michigan. By the end of June, there will be 12 parkruns in the U.S., including Heritage Harbor.
The American Cancer Society is partnering with parkrun US to promote healthy lifestyles. According to the Society, some of the most important things you can do to help reduce your cancer risk include being physically active on a regular basis and getting to and staying at a healthy weight throughout life. Physical activity is an important component of weight control. Running has been associated with numerous health benefits, notably, the potential to extend life by seven years. By removing obstacles that keep people from physical activity and contact with parks, parkrun is helping them live healthier, happier lives. Therefore, the American Cancer Society has endorsed parkrun to help increase the number of participants and events across the US.